Many years ago, when I was in college, I went to Mass on a Wednesday night at a Catholic lay community called Berakah. This was a group of lay men and women, one Franciscan priest, and a Sister of Charity who lived in the community. These folks shared financial responsibilities and prayed in common. Their Wednesday evening Mass was open to the public.
After Mass on this particular occasion, Father Richard mentioned that Shanae, a professional dancer, was involved in an ecumenical prayer service the week before, and everyone who saw her dance was brought to tears. He asked Shanae to perform this dance after the Mass for those who were gathered. I can remember the subdued lighting and several lit candles casting her shadow on the wall behind her as she began. The music started, “Dance in the darkness, slow be the pace. Surrender to the rhythm of redeeming grace.” This song was quite familiar at the time. It was sung by Father Carey Landry, and the verses of the song were based on various Scripture quotes, Psalm 126:6, John 1:21, and 2 Corinthians 12:9,10. I can remember being touched by the richness of Scripture as well as the beauty of Shanae’s body as she danced.
I am reminded of this experience as I was reading, “Eucharist – Celebrating Its Rhythms in Our Lives” by Father Paul Bernier, SSS. He writes, “… [I]t is helpful to think of the liturgy as a dance God invites us to join. We are affected by what we do. To speak of the liturgy as a dance is to realize that it is God who pipes the tune, who sets the basic rhythms. For each of us the dance will be different, reflecting the differences in our bodies, our lives, our relationships. … Only in the liturgy do all of life’s rhythms come together.”1
Father Bernier goes on to describe five different rhythms found in Eucharistic celebrations. These five points are his, but their explanations are mine.
The Gathering rhythm – This is seen in the “dance” in which each family and each person works to actually show up for Mass. When we gather, we gather as a united family. We gather around the altar as sons and daughters of God. We gather as one family, having one creed, one faith, one baptism. This is a holy time in which our differences melt away and become one body worshipping our Creator.
The Storytelling rhythm – Human beings love a good story. Storytelling is not merely about those who lived during the Old Testament times or during the time of Jesus and His teaching, but also how our stories echo these stories. We can discover that we are not unique in our struggle to understand the Will of God for our lives. We can learn that God’s mercy and love is infinite even though understanding of this takes a lifetime. These stories are important because they teach us that we are not alone, and our lives do matter to our Creator.
The Prophetic rhythm – The narratives that resonate in the storytelling aspect of liturgy take a life of their own when we take them into our hearts and souls. They create a cadence within our beings that invites us into the Dance of Trinitarian Love. This is God’s dance, the dance of the Kingdom. To build this Kingdom makes us dance according to His rhythm, His rules! We are called not to allow the world to change us, but, guided by His Spirit, to change the world!
The Nurturing rhythm – This is the part of the Eucharist, according to Father Bernier, that corresponds to the Communion Rite. During this time, we are fed no ordinary food but rather the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ! If we are open to the grace, it slowly changes us to become more and more like Christ Himself. We are nurtured to become one with the Trinity! This cultivates our local Church to become supportive and welcoming in every aspect of ministry.
The Missioning rhythm – At the end of Mass, the Roman Missal declares, “Then the Deacon, or Priest himself, with hands joined and facing the people, says: Go forth, the Mass is ended. OR: Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. OR: Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” Whatever the words the priest or the deacon uses, I don’t believe we have rightfully owned the fact that we are commissioned to go forth and dance His dance for the world to see. By dancing this dance, we are actually evangelizing others about God’s glory and grace and blessing in our lives.
Yes, we dance in the darkness, but to God that darkness is not dark at all!
Shall we dance?
1 Bernier, P. Eucharist: Celebrating its rhythms in our lives. Ave Maria Press. 1993. P. 18.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness